Tag Archive for ponderings

Trans is not a gender

Alright, I think some people may disagree with what I’m going to write here, but I came across a few characters that brought it to mind, and I feel the need to write/talk it out.  Since that’s what this blog is intended for, away I go!

There was a statement I recall hearing from some real transsexual folks a while back, about how a MtF who completed her transition was not a trans man, but a woman, and the same applies for the other direction.  From a Transformers board I follow which seems to ironically have a decent proportion of transsexual folk, they want to be seen as the gender they should be, not what they are, and that’s how they present themselves.  If they could snap their fingers and be 100% the gender they should be, they would be in a heartbeat, much like many otherkin would do if they could become their species. (Also ironically, otherkin still tend to be looked down on by transexual folk, despite the fact that unlike their situation, it’s more spiritual than physical.)

Then recently, I came across someone who was getting rid of some characters, and I took a peek cause the thumbnails looked interesting.  A couple of the characters in question were female in shape and body, but with male genitals, and their gender was labeled as trans.

Trans is not a gender.  The people I mentioned above, who have to deal with the situation in real life, would consider this sort of character an insult, and in fact I’ve seen similar reactions to some mainstream depictions of such people that take the same approach.

Now, they could be in the middle of transitioning, but the art and descriptions gave the impression that this was their natural selves, and they were satisfied with being where they were on the physical gender spectrum.  Basically, it’s being used as a more palatably-named version of the old concept of the “dickgirl”/”cuntboy” concept. (Which some trans folk also find offensive, but that’s neither here nor there.)

Nowadays, there is a wider spectrum recognized in the matter of gender, which reflects itself in furry fandom.  You’ve got genderfluid folk, who go back and forth, or folk who identify as neither.  It makes perfect sense to have people who may identify as somewhere in-between, whether a full herm(with breasts or without), a “dickgirl,” or a “cuntboy.”

Now fair enough, people may be confused on these, and said confusion may make them angry that someone is challenging them, or it may make them think the person is simply doing it as a cry for attention, instead of who they are.  There may even be a few for whom that is true. Also fair enough that the two latter terms have been used as insults in the trans community for long enough that it feels wrong to use the terms, but frankly I just don’t have anything better at the moment.  And that, my friends, is part of the problem.

How do you describe the gender of such folk? Stick to the well-used terms despite their negative connotation? Make up something else and piss off the “anti-snowflake” crowd further? Or just go the smartass route(my favorite) and say “Gender: Yes”?

Now some may point out that fursonas have an element of fantasy to them. Some may choose to have their fursona mirror their real-life progress, and that’s fine. And they may decide to stop halfway between like the examples above.  But at that point, if you do stop partway on purpose, you’ve finished your transition, even if the endpoint is not a “normal” endpoint.  You’re not trans, you’re something else.

And honestly, I guess this has turned into more of a rant than a discussion or whatever, and people can claim whatever labels they like, but someone calling themselves trans as a gender does a disservice to the actual transexuals who are in mid-transition, and intend to go all the way because that’s what they truly see themselves as.

Trans is not a gender.

That said, I’ll go back to my hidey-hole now until the next time I get a bug up my tail to write about something, or when I finally get around to another art post, as I have gotten a couple pieces, and have at least one more in the works.  But that’s for another day.

Chakat Thoughts

Chakat Swiftwind

‘Kats gonna ‘kat.

So I’d like to discuss this sexy piece of pinup art I got from @Inkrend recently.  (Side note:  This is the SFW version – my furry art galleries have the NSFW version.)

First a little bit of history.  Back when I was foxing around on Second Life, I got introduced to ‘taurs and found them somewhat fascinating.  Researching them led to the chakat universe, which took some of the basic concepts of Star Trek and re-spun them with a furry bent.

The chakat race is a race of feline hermaphrodite taurs, with a primarily female appearance, created by Bernard Doove a.k.a. Goldfur.  I believe this was among the first of the “original” furry species to really take off in popularity- which eventually led to others such as Sergals and Dutch Angel Dragons.

Anyways, I thought a bit about what I would be like if I was a chakat, and decided to actually create hir to “reserve” the character and name.  I ended up fully embracing hir for probably close to a year as my fursona, before awakening to dragonhood.

A bit over a year ago I revived hir to be a character in a story I had written, and establish a  place for hir in the chakat universe.  This led to a few more art pieces, which I’ve previously shared and a renewed personal interest in hir as a character.

While the previous art pieces I’ve gotten have been great, a minor pet peeve has been that they’ve never gotten hir bust size quite right.  Shi is supposed to have fairly large breasts, but none of hir depictions have really shown it well.  This one, on the other hand, does.

Another thing I like about this is that I get an impression of maleness as well, which is very fitting for a hermaphrodite in general, and hir in specific, as shi tends to lean more towards hir male side.  It may just be me, or it may not have been intentional, but combined with the fact it actually got hir bustline right this is the best depiction of hir yet!

This actually also inspired a re-evaluation as well of how I’ve been representing myself.  I know there are some that have multiple characters, while others have an identity tied to a single representation of themselves.  I myself fall into the latter category, with my dragon self being in all ways a reflection of my inner being.

Basically, I considered that if I had gotten this picture earlier, would it have made a difference?  At heart, I still believe that I am dragon, and after consideration, I don’t believe I have the right mindset to truly be a chakat, unlike some others I know out there.  Chakats are naturally polyamorous – they have multiple mates at any given time, and jealousy is something that is not natural to them.  As hermaphrodites, they are also naturally bi, though they may have individual preferences towards one side or the other, much as single-gendered folk have preferences for certain parts of the body.

As much as I could see the above art representing me, and with how aware I am of my feminine side, I unfortunately fit neither of those qualifications.  To start with, I had the opportunity to explore how I felt about both genders online by playing a herm, and male anatomy just doesn’t excite me.  Herms that I have found attractive have been mostly due to their female attributes.

Secondly, I am also definitely not polyamorous.  If I consider someone my mate, they are mine and I would not feel comfortable about them screwing other people – though to be fair this goes both ways.  I also would not feel comfortable screwing someone else while being in a relationship.  I don’t have any problem with open mateships in and of themselves; they’re just not for me.

Chakats are also fairly even-tempered.  While I can be in general, I’ve gotten rather angry at times.  My temper is overall far more draconic than it is chakat.

All that aside, I could see myself playing hir online again at some point, but ultimately shi is a much smaller aspect of my being than my dragon self, and barring being more active on Second Life again, there’s not much of an opportunity for me to do much besides write about hir or get art.  If the opportunity presents itself though, shi’s definitely on my short list, and I would love to be able to play hir in a Traveller campaign or something similar.

And I finally have a picture I can point to without qualifications and say “That’s hir!”

Future Imperfect – Virtual Transhumanism

So I was talking with a co-worker during some downtime recently, and the speculation it led to was quite interesting I feel.  It started with discussing how we’re in the future already that was talked about back in the 80s and 90s, but we just don’t recognize it(which is a topic I plan to go into seperately), and ended up with some discussion on how things may look in the near future, if we take current trends and run them out to a possible logical conclusion.

To start off with, let’s take a look at Shadowrun – take away the magic and D&D aspects, and it’s fairly standard cyberpunk.  In the original version, the Matrix was this world in virtual reality – VR and you could look like anything you wanted there.  Think Second Life, but with a full body VR, usually via direct neural interface.

As we worked on that tech in the real world, pure VR fell more to the side, partly due to the challenges of such tech versus the demand for such.  Instead, what grew up was a compromise; augmented reality.  Products like Google Glass and the holodisplay that Microsoft has demonstrated mix the virtual right over top of the real.  There are even games using similar tech now, such as the upcoming Pokemon Go.

As the developers of the Shadowrun system and universe updated it, they had to work in modern developments that were not expected back when it was created, such as AR and wireless, that people today might take for granted or see as near-future, and they had to do it in a way that made sense in-universe.  Thus came the wireless Matrix being available anywhere, after a fashion, and overlaid on the real world via AR to interact with.

Well, jumping off that idea, with AR you can overlay images to change how something looks.  What this means, is that fashion may take a sudden dive to the left, as the clothes no longer matter.

For purposes of this thought experiment, let’s assume that computational power is not an issue – cloud computing, etc tied into your visor/glasses/monocle/implants.  In much the same way that the studio was able to replace Arnold or his double in the later Terminator movie with his younger self, in AR your device could edit out a person’s appearance and modify it in real-time. Want some expensive, fancy clothes, but without risk of damaging or soiling them?  Let AR overwrite them onto your body for anyone tied into the network who looks at you.

The fashion world would be rocked, but adapt, and clothes would lose most of their appearance aspects.  Instead of wearing something to look good, you’d wear(or not wear) what was comfortable and affordable.  Most instances of clothes would become drab and utilitarian, while to the everyday folks they would be surrounded by a cavalcade of color and whimsy, full of outfits that are not physically possible.  In warmer weather, to a person not tied into the AR network, it might even seem as if he or she had walked into a nudist colony!

The capability does not stop there, however.  If clothes can be overlaid, so can full appearances.  While flying may not be possible on a personal level, you might end up with a scene looking like a high-resolution realistic Second Life, as the only limits would be those set by the system.  Furries, otherkin, cosplayers, and many others would be drooling over such a capability to truly become their character, or their true self, depending on perspective.

There would have to be limits of course, as their physical bodies still exist, so likely there would be few taurs or other four-leggers running around, or tinies or macro beings for that matter. That aside, on one level this would appear to be a gateway to transhumanism – to become more than human.  Setting aside any social stigma such as exists now for furries and others of a kindred nature, you could be walking down a street and pass a wolf, a faerie, a sumo wrestler, just to enter McDonalds and be served by a tigress whose outfit barely covers her and a robot with visible gears and pistons. People could effectively be anything humanoid they wanted to be.

On the other hand, it’s all virtual.  Turn off the implant, take off the glasses, and you’ll find the boring, mundane, drab grey world still exists behind the glitzy facade, much like Las Vegas.  For some, that may be enough, and with less push behind it from the semi-human quarter, progress and research in that direction may slow or even halt entirely in some aspects.

With less need to take care of themselves physically, there may be increased health issues as well, though possibly less than some would think, as smell is not included in our little thought experiment.  Sound could be, however, providing voice-changers to all and sundry.

This idea however I could easily see being reachable in our lifetime, given the strides networking, parallel processing, and cloud computing has made in the past decade.  Safely gene-splicing to phsycially modify our bodies is much, much further away, I feel.  But with being able to gain the “perfect” body via AR, whatever your definition of perfect, may dis-incentivize  research into actually gaining that body, which may push the end result out even farther.  Then again, there’s no reason that VR couldn’t take off again, allowing people to move in VR and interact with people in the real world via AR, while in the comfort of their home, or maybe even in a computer if anyone manages to solve the problem of how to upload our minds and souls into our creations.

I guess overall I see it as a blind alley that we could easily head into. There may be a door that leads us to someplace unexpected, or we may end up having to turn around and start from zero once more.  Then again, the rumored singularity may happen and we just hop the alley wall into the unknown.

“You can’t always get what you want.
But if you try sometime…
You just might find…
That you get what you need~”

My Two Cents on Dollars

So, first post I’ve written on my tablet, but bed’s too comfy to leave and I got thoughts to chew on before I go to sleep.

It started by thinking about my current “entertainment” budget, then recalling how some friends of mine were scraping by, and how they think about money, and then how I treat money and what I’d found out recently about where I stand.

Maybe it’s best if I start with my situation.  My current job is salaried, and I honestly probably pay less attention to the amount than I should.  For example, there’s a bonus program going on for completing some training that we need to do anyways, but it had to be done on our own time.  I wanted to do it because it needed to be done anyways, and I had some art in mind I wanted to spend it on, but I almost missed the deadline because the money wasn’t that important – and it was half of a single paycheck in total!

Currently my life us fairly comfortable, though not extravagent.  Thanks to my current arrangements, bills are mostly covered, so most of my paychecks go into savings.  These are relatively temporary arrangenents though, so I still treat that money as if it was already spent, and ignore the total amount sitting in savings unless I need to move money. This keeps me from getting used to overspending and having issues later due to that.

My perspective on money is informed by this treatment of pay as well.  I still feel $200 is a lot to spend on anything, and spending $100-ish on single optional purchases still makes me internally cringe a bit. When I’m  using anything that’s triple digits in price, I usually go over it several times before pressing “buy.”  I still try to pay cash for most small offline purchases even!

Well I was looking at some statistics the other day about salary ranges and was surprised at the ranges.  I had thought I was in the lower-middle class range, but apparently I’m solidly middle class?  My dad before retirement was actually upper-middle, but it never felt like it growing up.  We never really lived like it either.

My friends on the other hand are in a worse situation, though it’s partly of their own making – they have too many dogs and cats to feed and care for, and at least one of them doesn’t really want to get rid of any.  They’be got 4 dogs, 9 cats I can think of, plus 2 more kittens, and then 4-6 people, depending on if either of those last two are covering their own stuff or not.

They’re basically running off two incomes at the moment, with a third partially contributing via rent. Money is tight, and even $3 can seem like a lot at times I think.  They still manage to squeeze in some “entertainment” purchases, it doesn’t feel like they really budget well in advance.  They’re basically going paycheck-to-paycheck right now from my perspective.

Now I’m wondering if I should see if I can help with some electronic budgeting.  At a basic level anyways.

Now I’m not sure where I was going with this.  I try to treat money as if I don’t have it, track my monthly spending on “toys,” balk at big purchases, but a meal out every now and then or an occasional $3-$10 purchase doesn’t seem excessive.  My dad on the other hand will buy a 6-month sub to an MMO he hasn’t even tried yet and think nothing of it.  I’ve got a co-worker who has been subbed to WoW since Vanilla, even though he hasn’t played in years.  And then for the people I mentioned earlier even a month of WoW is a significant cost.

When you don’t have it, money is precious.  If you have a lot and start to use it, your mental scale for what is and isn’t expensive can change, which can then lead to trouble later if your supply dries up, which I guess is all about lifestyle.  Find the lowest lifestyle you’re comfortable at, then put all the extra away in case you ever actually need it. Even if you don’t follow a hard budget, at least track it so you can catch yourself if you start overspending.  At least, that’s what I’m trying to do.

After all, there’s two tips I’ve heard in the past. First, is that to have a comfortable retirement, you want to have around one million in the bank these days.  With inflation that will only go up.

Second, is that you want to aim for putting about half your post-tax paycheck into savings.  Right now that’she not a concern for me, but once my circumstances change as I expect them to, I’ll be using that as one of my budgeting guidelines to aim for.

It just feels odd that despite having the lowest need to be responsible with budgeting currently of those I’ve discussed, I seem to be being the most responsible.  And yet, I still seem to care less about it than others.

Speaking about being responsible, one last tip: credit cards shouldn’t be used as small change loan sharks, but as condoms for your wallet.  If you don’t spend more than you have and pay it off in full, it’s no different than a debit card in convienience.  However, if someone steals you debit card number, that money is gone until you convince the bank to reimburse you.  If they steal a CC number, you still have all your money while you work with the bank to cancel the fraudulent charges.  Finally, if you don’t pay it off, interest rates can lead to you digging a hole for yourself that you can’t get out of. I was headed that direction once, but used my current money-handling methodology to free myself from that trap.

Don’t really have anything else to add to this rambling now I guess, so I’ll call it here and see if I can actually get some sleep now!

Creative Gender-Bending: Flutterself

Well my birthday is well-past, but when you hit your 30s it doesn’t mean much until you’re 39 or so.  I used to always go see a movie with my mom, but she passed last year, and there was no movies in the theater I wanted to see, so I ended up spending it playing Star Trek Online.  It was fairly productive though, especially since I got a double XP weekend happening then!

Anyways, before I get distracted, to the meat of the post!  I was just reading some posts on Allsparkle about how people saw themselves in the various ponies. Yes, I watch the new MLP, but Allsparkle is really the only place I ever go for anything to do with it, since I was already there for Transformers anyways.  To get back on track though, Twilight is the one I see as closest to how I am.  That said, there’s a few elements of Fluttershy mixed in, and that got me thinking.

Fluttershy is my favorite of the Mane 6, as there’s something about her personality I really like.  However, from the discussion int hat top[ic, it made me think about how much of that might be from it being traits I’m attaracted to and how much are traits I might visualize in myself?  And then it got mixed up in the memories of the usual fan conceptions of how Fluttershy might look as a furry-type, and the mental blender went to frappe.

To finish setting the stage, let me describe how furry Fluttershy tends to end up.  Take her existing personality, and then combine that with a shapely, large-breasted(but conservatively dressed) anthro equine.  Best example I could find that wasn’t overly risque:

Fluttershys

So, while I do undoubtedly consider myself dragon, it set me to thinking how I would symbolize my feminine side if that were fully dominant?  Which then reminded me I did experiment with that a bit many years ago, before I awoke as(or became, depending on your aerspective) dragon.

Swiftwind used to be a fursona I used, rather than a seperate character.  Looking back, symbolically, it could be considered a way to let more of my feminine side out why still retaininging my maleness, as chakats are herms.  And RP-wise, that’s exactly what I did with that fursona, pretty much.

Now though, as shi doesn’t represent me, but a seperate character, shi’s developed a bit of her own personality – mostly cocky pilot, rather than the techhead I had originally envisioned hir as.  It’s still kind of a stereotype, as I haven’t gotten to play hir in a real RPG or really write hir into a story(beyond a prologue that may or may not get used as I switched gears to writing about M’Rel) but it’s something.

There are elements of hir though that I would definitely put in that fem!me.  Snow Leopard for one – that is 100% unquestionable.  There’s something about them that just seems fitting as a softer me.  I blame Sonique’s art though there for putting them into my head. And vixen just seems too slutty to me, to be frank.  I know it’s a bad stereotype, but mentally I could not see myself as one at all.

Physically, she’d have large floofy tail and somewhat large floofy breasts.  Yes, I am male and attracted to them, which may be biasing me somewhat, but they are an archetypal symbol of femininity.  Also, we’re talking idealized here, so you can toss this in the same category of girls(and guys!) giving their male selves large wangs.

Again, going with the Flutter-parallels that started the whole shebang, she’d be wearing comfortable but conservative clothes too, but when she dresses up it’d probably be a corset(but not too tight) in a fancy medieval dress, instead of some slinky thing.

Also, long purple hair.  I don’t know why purple for sure, when whenever I picture a snepfem, I see purple hair.  Yes, it’s not natural, but in a furry world, you don’t think they wouldn’t have invented dye early on?

Also also, glasses.  Picture the being I’ve drawn here and you know it fits!

Personality-wise, she’d be a bit of a tech-head, and a bit studious, and shy as well.  A bit oblivious to when she’s getting hit on unless they get more obvious, or until well after the fact.  A bit of a joker too, but throttled by the earlier shyness.

Secretly though, she’d also be a bit of a nympho, but keeps herself sated at home with various toys she’s collected, and other media; using them to control her urges lest they control her.

As to what name to give this bundle of fluff I’m not sure.  In the past I’ve used Jasmine as a default name for female felines, much as Llewelyn is a default name for my male characters and fursonas.  It really fits better though with the tigress I originally chose it for than this gal, so I might have to think on it.  I admit though, I’m sorely tempted to see about getting art of her now.

But another thing to think on again.. did I just describe a female me, or did I describe what I’d dream of in a mate?  Is there much of a difference between the two? Should there be?

Heck, maybe that’s something to look at within yourself, if you’re not already in a committed relationship.  Is your ideal mate a reflection of you, whether idealized or not?  Are you looking for a compliment, a reflection, or a supplement, to borrow a bit from geometry here?  For that matter, those of you already bonded, which of those categories do your mate or mates fit into?  Did you find a female version of yourself, the exact opposite, or somewhere in-between, where most of their attributes mesh with yours or not?

Still I think I may do something with Something Snowblossom at some point, if I can figure out a first name, and what exactly.  After all, I have been confused for female online multiple times in the past, in some cases despite using a male name!

Assuming the above is not just my own libido talking…

All we need is time, time, time…. time is all we need

So I’ve been trying to get this written for the past several days, but kept pushing it back since I didn’t have enough time with all the other things going on.  It seems to be something you can only ever have too little of or too much of; and once it’s spent, it’s gone.  All sales are final, no refunds or exchanges allowed.  As we only have a finite amount of time in this existence, that’s why we have to decide on what we actually want to spend it on.  Thus, the concept of opportunity cost and so on.

While I didn’t plan this to be my original topic, I actually think this might be worth further expounding on a bit, as it leads into what I was originally wanting to talk about.

Basically, opportunity cost is something people will tend to ignore quite a bit, especially in MMO games, and almost certainly in F2P/microtransaction-based ones.  Heck, I’ve done it myself in WoW.

The Auction House in WoW is a living example of this.  I used to play the auction house for a while, and I know when I crafted something and tried to sell it I usually compared it to the cost of the mats when pricing things.  If it went below the cost of the mats, I sold the mats instead.  There are enough people out there that do not do this however that sellers have complained for ages.

You see, for some people, they might spend 5 hours mining(this is all pre-WoD) and gather a bunch of stuff, craft it, then throw it up.  They get undercut, so they super-undercut to try and sell their stuff first, with the end result of the market for that item “crashing” to the point the major sellers either leave it alone, or buy up all the cheap items to reset the value and resell them.  The original seller though?  He didn’t care, because he considers all the materials he mined “free” since he didn’t spend gold on it, so any gold is profit.  What he neglects to account for is the 5 hours he spent gathering it, when he could have been doing something else like running dungeons or old raids.  heck, beyond a certain point he might have made more gold just doing that instead of mining and crafting.

Until recently, this was less obvious as gold in WoW did not have a (legal) fixed value in real money.  With the time tokens available now however, that gold can be quantified against the money you actually make working.

Now working is something we have to do whether we want to or not, at least in the US.  We give up some of our limited time in exchange for the resources to do all the other things we actually want to do.  Still, say you make $15/hour working a specific job.  That means you can quantify an hour of your time as $15, just for arguments sake.

Now a month of sub time for WoW is $15.  Last I heard, a sub token costs around 22k gold, so there’s a rough equivalency there.  So, if you were doing it purely for gold gain and had other things you would have preferred to do with that time, paying real money for X that was around 22k might be a better deal than trying to farm and craft it yourself.  Of course, this also doesn’t factor in that there’s other competition for your work money, and that there’s still a limited amount of time spent working, compared to time spent doing something else.  If you work your MMO gaming like a job though(and not enjoying it) and aren’t making the equivalent of your work salary?  Well, you’re just plain doing it wrong, by the numbers.

Note also that you can’t get the money back out of the game(unless you’re looking at Second Life) – once it’s sunk into the game, it’s gone, period, and you’re left with whatever you got back from it e.g. gear, enjoyment, etc.

Now WoW has added the follower mini-game in WoD, which allows for offline progression.  For example you might spend 5 minutes logging in and setting up missions, and then spend 5 minutes later that day collecting 500 gold(or more, depending on follower traits).  There usually tends ot be little bits of dead time here and there in people’s schedules(such as eating breakfast before work) so you can take advantage of things like this without much of an opportunity cost.

Now WoW is sub-based, in that you need to pay every so often to keep access to the game, so if you’re not having fun, most folks would cancel their subscription or just stop playing. F2P games on the other hand don’t have that barrier.

Instead they have Microtransactions.  Little things here and there that can add up to the cost of a sub or (much!) more. Say there’s a “Gotta-have” item in the cash store.  Someone might look at it and go “$10?  Pff, this is a free game, I’m not paying that!” and then spend 10 hours grinding some currency to use instead for the same thing.  Without that initial barrier, many people won’t even look at how long something might take, but instead just grind it in an effort to keep it “free” while spending way too much time on it.  On top of that, some games(especially Korean-originated ones) turn that grind up to 11 to try to entice these people into paying instead without (quite) driving them off.

In other words, take a good long look at how long it might take you to get something in-game, and if you really want it, before trying to grind it out when playing F2Ps.  It might be a much better use of your limited time, if you can afford it, to reward the developers with a bit of cash, as long as you don’t go overboard and turn into a whale throwing their entire bank account at a game that could potentially disappear within a few years.

That said, it brings me back to the more personal part of what I was wanting to talk about, Star Trek Online.  F2P, and I started playing it a bit a month or two ago during some WoW downtime, as I believe I mentioned before.  Well I’m enjoying it enough and WoW little enough that my limited non-work time has gotten totally flipped around!

Before, I was spending most of my idle time in WoW trying to find things to do and doing my few-times-per-day/week “chores” for more resources.  A few weeks ago now I actually totally stopped logging into WoW except for raid nights, and the last couple I’ve actually not even done that – I just logged into the battle.net client to see if they needed me to fill out the 20 spots.

It’s kinda funny.  Raiding with Prestige was fun, but as we got deeper into Mythic, the pressure and stress just kept building to keep performing at peak constantly.  It was still a good rush to get a new boss down ahead of everyone, and even bigger to get a Server First on a Mythic end boss, but the push and pressure to try and get it down ahead of everyone were making me start to dread raid nights.  I could see that performance-wise, while I was never top material, I was getting towards the bottom compared to the excellent players already on the raid team.  While I’m fairly sure we’d still get them down with me there, there was an impression, whether mine or among certain people, that I might be holding them back from staying on top.

My mindset in raiding has always been to push progression, but at the same time to focus on our own and ignore what everyone else’s progression is.  Compete only with ourselves.  While when I started running with them that may or may not have been the main mindset, with how long we stayed on top of the listings it seems to have taken over in large part, especially among leadership.  That’s not what I’m playing for(though it is an ego boost) and I just plain wasn’t having fun with it anymore. Still, I was showing up because I knew we were short on players and I had implicitly agreed to be there.  Recruiting has been working out better recently however, which has allowed me to start stepping away from the game finally, especially since I have other things I can do now(like STO).

The main downside has been getting people I know to play!  With WoW, there’s multiple people there I know, but STO was a blank slate in that regard.  A large part of the game there for me is the story missions which are easily single player, but when I went in to try and pug for the first time I found myself missing having guildmates or othersuch on vent to coordinate with and learn all these instances.  I was able to stick with the easiest one since I was just farming it for marks, but eventually I’ll want to see the others.

At least there’s maybe 3 people I know RL I’ve gotten to give it a look, so if they like it and stick around that would be a start.

Either way, with STO it’s all still fairly fresh, and I’m mostly enjoying even the grinds still.  When it started to feel a bit annoying to do one(such as when I was grinding Tholian marks on Nukara) it’s easy enough to just hop over to do something else for a bit.  Since it’s almost all time-gated, once you get a certain amount of buffer you can just keep it to a minimum, or grind it out in one big go(like I mostly did with Nukara).

To bring my earlier points into this though, STO actually has a very leniant implementation of F2P.  Paying for just a race unlock(for cosmetic reasons – busty feline captain ahoy!) and using just the free stuff I was able to hit level cap and play though most of the content.  I could have kept on going, but I’ve taken a “time-out” from following the story to beef up my main’s ship and gear.

Needing pay content and wanting pay content, however, are two very different things, as shown by my race unlock.  Looking around, it’s easy to see how you can spend a lot of money in that game, even if none of it is required.  Cosmetic options, “gambling” for gear via the lockbox-key system, and the highest end ships are all behind the paywall, as well as unlocking additional slots for inventory, bridge officers, followers, and so on.  Skill respecs are even nominally behind it.

At first glance, it looks like a lot.  However, there’s a time-gated in-game currency that’s tradeable for the cash shop currency in much the same way as WoW’s time tokens – one person buys the cash shop currency, then trades it for the time-limited currency to speed things up(since it’s tied to a lot).  Most of the prices are low enough that you can get what you want after a couple weeks of just playing normally.You see, this currency may be time-gated in how fast you get it, but you get it from doing almost anything in the game, and you can buffer it up!  Right now I have enough that if I did nothing but log in for 5 seconds to refine it, I wouldn’t have to do anything else for 2 weeks to use up my stockpile.  On top of that, the limit is per-character, so the more alts you play, the faster you can get the currency and the less time it takes – although to be fair, at that point it might turn into more grind than fun beyond a certain point.

Pretty much the only thing that takes a huge amount of time is new ships.  Given this is Star trek, the makers know that’s the high demand item, and it’s priced appropriately – $20-$30 for a high end ship.  Using the exchange I was talking about? 3-4 months with only a single character’s limit. Obviously that scales down with multiple alts, but as I’m new and don’t have the “alt support structure” I have on WoW, that’s outside the scope of what I was looking at for myself.

They also have regular sales of 15-20% off, which helps as well.  So this past weekend I took advantage of that to dump around $60 into the game, since my “entertainment” budget for this month had barely been scratched.  In fact, the only other expense on it was paying for one month sub for STO, as it unlocks a LOT more stuff that you normally have to pay a lot more for separately. Even better, you get to keep almost all of it when you go back F2P, and if I resub later, the character-based benefits will also apply retroactively.

Basically STO, while it may have its own issues with power creep and has a lot of monetization, is also extremely fair to the casual player and nowhere near “pay-to-win” in my books.  I chose to give them some cash, as I was enjoying the game and helps make sure the game continues – and I shouldn’t need to spend any more in the near future as I get more established and better able to take advantage of things like the cash shop exchange.

As to what I’m going to be using the money I put in for?  I’ve got my eye on a couple ships, and last year around this time they had a 15-20% off ship sale…

Best description of the US economy ever

I normally don’t write about this stuff, but this quote was posted on a private forum on a Transformers board I frequent, and it was too good not to share.  Since I can’t link to the actual post to share it, I’ll share it here!

The entire concept of trade, of capitalism, is the efficient allocation of resources. That it’s only marginally more difficult for me to build two or three tables than it was to build one, and that it’s only marginally more difficult for you to find and cook food for two people than it is to find and cook food for one, so I’ll give you my second table in exchange for you giving me a few meals. That’s barter.

But barter is a pain in the ass because trying to track down who’s willing to trade something you need for something you have a surplus of is really hard. So instead of barter, we had this rare, shiny stuff that we used as tokens to represent the nebulous concept of “value.” Which worked a lot better than barter, most of the time, but it had its own problems—sometimes there weren’t enough tokens to go around, or new tokens were going into the system too quickly and made the tokens everyone had less valuable, or people made fake tokens, or people tried to remove some of the rare stuff from those tokens and sell it separately while still presenting the token at the value it was originally set to represent.

So instead of tokens made from rare shiny stuff, or even tokens representing rare stuff stored somewhere, we figured out that it works better to just make cheap (but very, VERY difficult to fake) tokens that we can just make more of whenever we need more, backed by the credibility of the people who make those tokens instead of relying on the perceived value of a scarce substance. And we still try to ask for some of those tokens back, because making too many of them to pay for everything without trying to take any back hurts our credibility as the people backing them, devaluing the tokens much like too much of the rare shiny stuff devalued the tokens. Which is fine, that’s an easy enough system to manage (aside from where it’s really complicated and difficult to predict consequences of things)… as long as you know what you’re trying to accomplish.

Unfortunately, there’s a bunch of people out there with a lot of tokens who aren’t very nice. They derive their self-worth from the tokens, and not just how many tokens they have, but how many more they have than other people. They view how many tokens people give them as indicative of how much those other people respect them. They view the fact that they have tokens as proof of their inherent moral superiority to the people who don’t have tokens. They view their possession of tokens as evidence of all the hard work they’ve done, even though their parents had a lot of tokens too and that helped put them in a position to get all those tokens. They view anyone trying to take their tokens with suspicion. But worst of all, they use the fact that they have a lot of tokens as part of their resumé when they demand they should have the job of managing that token-making system, even though they’ve spent their entire life operating as though tokens are still that representation of a concrete scarce object and have no idea how to deal with it as an abstract representation of value.

So when one of those people gets into a position where they have a say over how the token-making is done… they tend to do very bad things with it. They freak out over the fact that we’re creating more tokens than we collect, even though a small amount of devaluation of those tokens over time helps to forgive people’s debts and encourage people to use their tokens more often. They freak out over the fact that we’re taking people’s tokens because taking things from people without giving them something they specifically asked for or doing something for them that they specifically asked to have done is mean. And they object to all the things we’re doing that benefit everyone, like making sure the roads are in decent condition and that people can go to the doctor if they feel sick, because they could just spend their tokens if they needed that and if anyone else wants those things, those people should have to spend just as many tokens as they have to.

Essentially, they forget that the point of those tokens isn’t to exist as their scorecard, their representation of self-worth, but to *facilitate the exchange of goods and services.*

So let’s all remember what the point of all these tokens are for!

Thoughts on Immortality

Given the turn my personal life has taken lately, mortality is one thing that’s been cropping up now and then.  Strangely enough, I had not too long ago just re-read a book series based on DOOM. The twist was that we were the only known intelligent lifeform in the known universe that was not functionally immortal.

Without giving away everything else, I do need to explain a bit as it goes into my thoughts on this topic.  The situation with the other intelligent races was that they could not die, at all.  They bodies could be damaged or break down, but once the body was repaired they would be back to normal.  While they may or may not be able to act, and they would be able to feel pain the whole time, they would still be fully cognizant of their surroundings and fully conscious, barring maybe some form of sleep as I can’t remember if that was a thing.  If the body was destroyed or sufficiently rendered unusable, their spirit or soul would disconnect and remain in that area as a sort of ghost, able to see and hear but unable to interact in any way with the world around them.  The fact that humans did not do this scared the living crap out of the other races.

Side note: writing about this is making me think of the way Transformers are handled in the modern fiction for it – as long as their spark is intact, their body could be trashed and they could still be fixed.  The only difference is with TFs their spark could be extinguished.

Anyways, thinking about this reminded me of some parallels with Tolkein’s elves.  The elves themselves were also fairly immortal, though there was little said about what happened to an elf who was intentionally killed that I can recall. The thing is, they were unable to leave the world, while humans were able to go beyond to an unknown existence once they passed on, and the elves considered this a gift given to that race by their creators.  Eventually the elves grew weary of the world, and retreated to a paradise of sorts among that universe’s equivalent of deities, but they could never truly travel beyond the end of the universe like humans did when they died.

That train of thought led me to consider what a society of functionally immortal people might look like.

First, with murder no longer an option, unconsensual torture would become the ultimate crime.  I’ll go over why I added the word unconsensual later but for now, consider the fact that without death, suffering from pain could be continued to the point of madness, depending on the tortured person’s strength of will.  Basically, it’d have all the makings of rape cases, but without needing the sex angle to force their power on someone else.  You also can’t just get rid of all pain, as it’s a very important indicator of damage to the body.  Without it, you might not realize your feet are on fire, and cutting it out would lead to people damaging themselves beyond easy repair without even knowing it until its too late.

My second point returns to that idea of consensual torture.  Even today, with fully mortal people, there are folks out there who derive pleasure from pain, whether receiving or giving it.  Take away the risk of death, and you can go a looooot farther- assuming that it’s not the risk itself that makes it pleasurable.

Speaking of pleasures and entertainment, that’s another huge potential pitfall any such society would have to monitor.  Doing the same thing, day in and day out, is already known to be boring within several years.  What about 100 years later, assuming nothing changes?  Would you be able to do the same thing day in and day out for 100 years?  I doubt it.  Just as vanilla sex can get boring and lead to more and more unusual sexplay to “spice up” a love life, other pursuits will become stale and these immortal people will look for ways to “spice up” their lives in general.  This I think is one of the more interesting parts of this thoughtline – the different ways this could go.

The first option I see I’ll call the “Dark Eldar” option, as that’s a good example of it.  As the folk continue to live, they become more and more jaded, and go to more and more extreme lengths for a novel experience.  Morals and conscience are eventually left behind, sacrificed on the altar of new life experiences, eventually leading to a society we would consider demons straight from hell. And hey, there’s an idea for a story or campaign right there!

The second option, which I’ll call the “Sleeper” option, is one that may have been explored previously, but seems like an interesting idea to me.  As folk start to become world-weary, they are put to sleep for a couple hundred years, using cryogenics or some magical equivalent.  Once they come back from their slumber, they would then find a presumably changed world, with new things and experiences to explore.  This would also be a way to address resource issues, which is something I don’t intend to touch on here.  Development would likely not slow down in this case, as newer folks would continue to push the boundaries of what’s possible as they are not weary of the world yet, and then when they grow weary, they could “rest” while the returned folk learn what happened while they were out and continue the work.  There’s still a danger of eventually drifting into option 1 if progress slows or stops, but this would be one potentially healthy way to address the issue of world-weariness.

The third option could be termed the “Fae” option, as it is along the lines of your typical fantasy elves.  It follows the idea that with the longer lives(in this case unlimited), there’s less drive to do anything worthwhile.  Progress would slow to a crawl as there’s no ticking time bomb to try and make something of themselves before they go.  Life would become ephemeral and passive, and the immortals in this case would simply drift through life without any sort of care, dancing, singing, playing, doing nothing but meaningless things.  Eventually, this could lead to stagnation and decay, and potentially could end up drifting into Dark Eldar territory if they started to take a more active role rather than the passive one that this option embodies.  Rather than trying to change the world, they let the world change them and drift through it like a breeze or slow stream.

Option four could be best labeled the “Amnesia” option, as that is what it essentially is.  This borrows a bit from some Transformers lore, where some ‘bots reportedly were so old they forgot things despite being computers, because they ran out of  “memory space” and erased old memories or overwrote them with new experiences.  We would ahve the same approach here where an immortal may only remember a couple hundred years of the mundane parts of life, and only the most major events stick with them across the aeons.  The immortals would never become truly tired of the world because there’d always be new things for them to (re-)experience, but over the years they could become someone completely different as they lose experiences and gain new ones.  There is a risk here of becoming stuck in a progress treadmill, but presumably written records would allow knowledge to be preserved against the collective amnesia.  Still, that’s one risk only perhaps the Fae option shares.

Option five is probably the most extreme, and could be termed the “Cthulhu” option.  Given aeons to live, rather than adapting but remaining something that our current minds could comprehend, these immortals would become something else, something other.  Their personalities and motives would become strange and unnatural to our mindset as they assimilate the truths of the universe that we might never be able to comprehend in our limited lifetimes.  Given that, they may even be able to transcend their existence to something unknowable to us, ala the Elder Gods or Great Old Ones of Cthulhu mythos, or the energy beings such as the Q and Organians in Star Trek.

After all:

T̙͉̟̱̯͐ͤ͆̄ͅhͯͮ͐̊a̟͊̚t̮̰̟͈̳ͣͦ͂̔̍ ̥͔͇̈́ẁ͓͉ͫ̂h͓̜̾̉͊̿̌i̱̗̔c͈̳̙͈̑̏͗h̞̜̹̎̈ ̻͙ͧͪ̽͑̽̍i̩̥̰̼̬͕ͪ̄ͧ̑ͩ͗s̙͇̬̮̖̳̰̋̌̈́͆̊ ̣͖͓̯ͫ̉̆̋ͫ͆̅d̳͚̪̖͕͉͈͂ͥͬ̾̂̉͐e̓a̦̥̘̹̺̳̬ͩ̑͊̇̓̒̚d̮͎͈ ̈́̒d͚ͤ̀͗ó͈̠̮̥̙͚̃ͬe̒̑̇͐̐́ͧs͇̰̹͈̖̜̹ͩ͋͗ͬ ͓̹̪ͭ̾ͅn̠̲̠̰̲̥̏o̳̫̿ͮ̉̈͆t͖̘̝̙͕̲̹̋͛ͨ̀̾ ̱̮̲́̈́ͯͥ͂̄ͅeͣt̪̠͕̏ͅe̜͈ͬ͐ͧr͔̳̳̼̦͎͐͛́ͦ̿ṉ͍ā̍̏̄͗l̥̤͎̮͔͌̍ ͍͕̠͙̠̞̇ͯ̎̂̈l͓̻̩̊̄ị̘̫̻͋̉͑e͕͎̠
̞̲͖̤̟̊̎̈́A̓͒͛n̻̮̖̓̀̊ͬͧͬd̤̂̐ͅ ̲̺̝̣̺̞̩ͩ͆̿ͮͣ̋͑ȋ̲̣̲͚̥͉͉n ̹̅̓͒͒̓̈́̆s͍̦̹̯̜̤̈́́͛͂ț͙̗̮̈̐ͯ̊r̺̖̱̰͓͙̟ͣ̽̓̍a̲̱̺̰̝͎ͫͩͣͮ͆̀̚n̰͍̘̼͓͒ͮg͙͎̫̹͓̫̳͊e͈̳͍̳̯ͮ ̅ͥ͊̈̃ͭa͔̭͖̘̻͈̭ͧ͂̐e̻̳̞ͬͮ͑̐̉o̖̫͚̤̭̳ͨ̇ͫn͙͈̟̿̎̐̿͗̓s̱̝̦̤̹̪̟̋̏̊ ͔̆̈̊̊͛͋e̙̥͚̩͇̔ͭ̿̈v̟̣̟̱̮͎̜ê̪̤̤͖̖̮ͦ̃͆̍̍ͣn͍͖̲̗ͩ̓ͥ ͔̻̻d̺̉̌̚e̥͍̩̭̺̅ͭ̏a̖̤̫̮̮̼ͪͪ͆ͅt̮͔̼h ̝ͤ̔͒͑͋m͔͖ͬͪͦ̓̇̓a͚͕̰y͇ͮ́͗ ̦̠̺̰̓ͦ̆̑͋d͔͇͙͍̄͊̈ͤ͋i̱̺̮̫̊ē̼͓̱͇̖̪͉̚.̥̱͇̪̭͐ͅ

Life Moves On

So my last living grandparent passed on this past weekend.  Oddly, I don’t feel any different than I did before, and looking back, that was the case with all my grandparents.  This seemed odd to me at first, considering all the folks mourning, until I thought about it some, and I think there’s a few factors here, some of which deserve to be looked at.

First, there’s the matter of how often I interacted with them.  My grandparents on my Dad’s side moved several states away when he retired, and on top of that I was in college at the time.  As such, I barely saw them much after they moved out there before they passed on.

My grandparents on my mom’s side lived a lot closer, but they were still about a half hour to 45 minutes away, and combined with my usual business I didn’t see them much either.  I still going to have all the memories, but I hadn’t seen much of either before they passed on in the end.

What really then is the difference between moving out of touch somewhere and moving on from this life? Emotionally for me, I think that it feels like they just happened to move to somewhere where I can’t reach them is all, and they’re not truly gone.  It’s even in the phrase, passing on.

Which brings us to the second aspect, what death means.  For me death is an ending but also a new beginning.  There is a picture I commissioned before which unintentionally did a good job of bringing out that feeling.

1395159812.adalfyre_dekafox

The color pallette and lighting gave me a feeling of a old worn foxdragon moving on into the afterlife, but pausing to look back one last time at what he’s leaving behind.  When death comes naturally, as it did in all their cases, this is how I feel it should be.  A laying down of burdens, and of moving on to greater delights and serenity.

Which then comes back around to the third part of it all, mourning itself.  The funeral was a somber but not overly sad ceremony, but it did make me think.  A lot of times the sadness and such is a reflection on the people left behind looking on what they have lost, rather than a celebration of the life that person lived, or that they have been released form whatever pain and suffering they may have been experiencing.

Me, I’d think I’d prefer something more along the lines of a wake.  Celebrate the life they lived, and raise your glasses to what they’ve left behind.  Celebrate their life rather than mourn their death.

I think in the end that’s why I’m not too torn up about it all – they’ve moved on to Heaven or whatever the afterlife may hold, and they passed on when it was their time, a life fully lived.  Whether they’re 1200 miles away or a dimension away, they still exist in the hearts of every person who cared for them.  The body has been returned to the earth it came from, and their souls have moved on to the great beyond.

And someday, just like in the picture above, I will rejoin them.  Someday, in the sea of stars…

Competition

So a while back my girlfriend mentioned I was very competitive. Now we play quite a few games often to spend time together, both with just us and with others, but I didn’t put too much stock in it at the time.

I tend to be a bit of a perfectionist, and whatever I do, I try to do my absolute best at, though I will sometimes put additional personal restrictions in place on things.  For example, I prefer not to jump my dragoness’s pawns in parcheesi unless I’m forced to by the game not giving an out.  Within that restriction however, I try to play it the best I can, and everyone else’s pawns are fair game.

The other night however, we’d recently found this Monopoly clone and were playing it a bit before heading off to bed.  Unlike the first night, that night the dice were rolling well for me and not only did I get 2 full groups, I ended up through managing mortages(and a couple close calls) buying one out of every color group I didn’t fully control, This might not have been so bad, except it was just the two of us, and without considering it I’d totally blocked my GF from doing anything without buying or trading properties from me, which killed her interest in it, the the point that night where she was not wanting to ever play it again with me.

I felt horrible about it that night, but it made me recall her words before.

When you’re playing a game, typically you are playing to win to some extent, but just having fun can outweigh that; especially since in that example we were ultimately just playing around to have a bit of fun with a new game and kill time.  While we were playing, since we weren’t chatting much I was looking at the board and thinking mostly in terms of the game, and planning ahead on my next step, rather than thinking about making sure she got to move forward too.   My actual goals though were more to build out some areas for the achievements.

Anyways, making me think about all this also made me think back to WoW.  I’ve been raiding for years, and for a while I was raiding with a casualcore group and what had kind of devolved into a more casual group, before it broke up because of the difference in opinion on progression value.

With the first group, we show up to kick butt, take loot, and push progression.  If you screw up you’re letting down the team.  You do your best for yourself and the team to do ever harder content, though we’re no world first guild, we do the best we can within our limits.

The other guild people were mostly going to kill bosses and have fun together, regardless of the progression. We weren’t getting anywhere compared to the other one because everyone was more casual about it and I had already found that sort of guild isn’t a great match for me, as I always tended to be progression-oriented, making the character grow in capability.

Those same traits that make me a good raider though, are what came back to bite us in the butt that night. When raiding seriously, competitiveness is good and encouraged, as it pushes you to increase your performance, especially as a DPS.  Lord knows I compared myself often enough on the charts after fights with my other raid members! But it can be a detriment as well, when you’re trying to play a game more casually, but without the clues of body language and tone of voice, it’s a lot harder to tell when you’ve crossed the line if you don’t catch yourself first.

It is kinda funny though that I ultimately don’t care for PvP in most games, given that, instead preferring co-op, but then that’s probably my natural tendencies towards empathy and avoiding direct confrontation warring with those competitive tendencies to instead turn to co-op and comparisons.

That may be part of why I didn’t really consider it at first, as in my mind when I hear competitiveness, I also mentally tie in confrontation and being a direct opponent to someone rather than the way I normally go about things.

We’ve since talked about it and I’m going to restrain myself further where she’s concerned on that game as well.  most of the other games we play are usually down to 90% luck, and less strategy, so they depend mostly on the luck of the die/draw.

That night she said “You are who you are” when I apologized again for “ruining” the game and to a certain extent she’s right; those traits have served me well in certain environments, but there’s a time and place for that, which is why I come up with additional restrictions to hold myself back.  I’m just going to have to do it more proactively.  I’m just glad that she knew that it wasn’t my intention, and she didn’t hold it against me at all.  Not that I would ever expect her to, but past experiences with other girlfriends have made me skittish about things, even if only subconciously.

In other news, I’ve started playing WoW again, and the 3 month break was what I needed.  I’m gearing up my druid for leveling after finding out about the new werecat talent, and I’m really hoping it turns out competitive DPS compared to the other two talents on that tier, so I don’t feel like I’m gimping myself for using it.  I’m also working back through and upgrading my priest’s gear, and I should have it done in plenty of time as the release date now is November.

I also already requested release day and the day after off so I can binge-level this time too on at least one character.  I’m looking at leveling 3 characters to cover all my bases in terms of professions, thanks to garrisons, and two of those are the druid and priest I’m already going to be leveling.  I’m just going to have to re-find a balance point between WoW to progress my toons and SL to spend time with my dragoness, but that’s no different from any other guy who plays WoW and has a SO.

Ultimately, it is what it is though, and I wouldn’t give her up for anything. So priorities will adjust, as they always have, and life goes on.